DEAR JOHANNA: I recently had to lay down my dear feline companion and am now suffering from a flea explosion in addition to his absence.
As I am very chemically sensitive, I have tried repeatedly washing, vacuuming, spraying scented oil, and more, but I still get bitten every day.
Can you recommend methods for my home to kill fleas that are not toxic? Protection in place is pretty miserable in this state.
Kathleen Eagan, San Jose
DEAR KATHLEEN: Please accept my condolences on the loss of your cat.
I have a few suggestions to help with your flea infestation. The first step is to use a powerful vacuum cleaner on your carpets, upholstery, and mattresses. Use the narrow split bar attachment to make sure you get into the corners and folds of the furniture.
Not only are you looking for fleas, they’re also looking for eggs, larvae, and cocoons, which make up 95 percent of an infestation, and that’s why you keep getting bitten.
Take all of the vacuum outside to empty the bag or canister and make sure the vacuum is well cleaned.
Next, use a steam cleaner on your carpets and upholstery. The combination of high heat and soap kills fleas in all phases of life.
You’ll need to wash bedding and curtains in the hottest water they can stand and dry on the highest heat setting that won’t ruin the fabric. Heat is critical to killing fleas at all stages.
Ordinarily, I’d recommend going next to use an aerosol flea killer, sprayed all over your house, under beds and furniture, and in corners, but with your chemical sensitivity, you probably don’t want to do that. However, if you should try, look for an insecticide that kills adults as well as eggs and larvae. It will likely contain both permethrin and methoprene or pyriproxyfen.
To keep you from getting sick, you can ask a friend to spray while you safely stay outside the house for a few hours until the spray dries.
To avoid having to use chemicals, even the less toxic ones, you can buy some flea traps that are odorless and harmless to humans. You plug it in and the combination of an attractant, light, and heat attract fleas where they’re trapped on a sticky pad. I’ve used these and they work fine. You’ll likely want one for every large room in the house, and they cost around $ 20 each.
You can also make your own flea traps by filling a plate or bowl with a mixture of warm water and dish soap. It doesn’t have quite the same pull as the electric trap, but it works pretty well. You need to replace the water and soap at least once a day.
However, neither of these has an effect on the eggs and larvae.
A popular homemade herbal flea spray consists of 4 parts vinegar, 2 parts water and a little lemon juice and witch hazel. Spray it all over the house.
It will take you some time to get them all, but you will eventually. You should also check your yard to make sure you aren’t bringing them in from outside.
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